Bankfin Off Road Championship; Sun City benefit for Nissan. Nissan factory and privateer teams flexed their muscles to dominate the Toyota Dealer 400, round five of the Bankfin Off-Road Championship, at Sun City over the weekend. Reigning ...
Bankfin Off Road Championship; Sun City benefit for Nissan.
Nissan factory and privateer teams flexed their muscles to dominate the Toyota Dealer 400, round five of the Bankfin Off-Road Championship, at Sun City over the weekend.
Reigning Production Vehicle champions Giniel de Villiers and Francois Jordaan romped to their third victory of the season in the factory Nissan Hardbody, a result which gave Nissan their fourth win of the series. De Villiers/Jordaan were followed home in the overall and Class T standings by Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke, in the second works Nissan Hardbody, with seven minutes separating the two crews.
The Nissan cup overflowed, however, when factory pair Duncan Vos and Mike Griffith and privateers Jurie and Andre du Plessis chipped in to win Class D and Class E respectively. That completed a Nissan benefit and left other teams with plenty to ponder over the remaining three races of the championship sponsored by Bankfin, the specialist vehicle finance division of ABSA Bank.
There was plenty of drama in the Special Vehicle category where brothers Laurence and Gerhard du Plessis came through to take their second win of the season in the Mobil Jimco. Second were overall championship leaders Greg Harvey and Boy Stone, with consistency again paying off for the Eastern Cape crew in the Castrol Queen Motor Spares Jimco, with Atang Makgekgenene and Alec Salley third in the SAM Racing Jimco.
There was also a return to form for Greg Daus, partnered by Archie Rutherford in the Nashua Mobile Racing Raceco, in Class S, with KwaZulu-Natal crew Marcus Taylor and Marc de Chalain winning Class B in the Truck Time JRE. Veteran Giel Nel, the reigning Class B champion, maintained his title challenge, however, with second place in the Luk Afrika Truggy.
Although the de Villiers/Jordaan and Grobler/Leeke combinations emerged, not unexpectedly, as the dominant forces in the Production Vehicle category the Nissan triumph was not without a hiccup or two along the way.
An early puncture took a little wind out of the de Villiers/Jordaan sails, and Grobler/Leeke broke an anti-roll bar and the Nissan Hardbody later lost third gear. This opened the door for former champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer in the factory Ford Racing Ranger, and Apie Reyneke and Robin Houghton in the Team Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser.
The Ford and Toyota camps, however, were unable to take advantage of the Nissan problems. Reyneke and Houghton suffered a string of punctures and then brake problems helped drop them to fourth in Class T.
It is Woolridge and Skjoldhammer though, who will be pondering most over a lost opportunity to score their first win of the season. With the Nissan crews faltering the Ford pair found themselves in the lead and then strayed from the route.
"We came to a crossing that was not specifically marked on the route schedule, and followed the wrong markers," said Skjoldhammer. "We suddenly realised we were on the route used the previous day on the prologue, and had to retrace our steps.
"By the time we got back on the right route the Nissans were ahead of us, and we had given them a birthday present."
To compound matters for the Ford squad they found themselves in among a group of Special Vehicles, and had to get past them before they could think of mounting an attack on de Villiers and company. The one consolation for Woolridge and Skjoldhammer is that third overall and in Class T keeps them sitting atop the Class T championship ladder.
After a streaky start to this year's campaign Vos, like de Villiers a former Bankfin Touring Car star, and Griffiths have hit a rich vein of form. It has taken them to the top of the overall Production Car and Class D standings, and another powerful performance saw Vos and Griffith come home fifth overall.
With other fancied Class D crews falling by the wayside the husband and wife team of Marius and Tracey van Vuuren grabbed their opportunity to finish second in the Alberante Land Rover. Third were brothers Henri and Maurice Zermatten in the Playstation Mitsubishi Pajero.
With expected frontrunners also falling by the wayside in Class E the du Plessis brothers, in the B and B Auto Nissan Hardbody, were handed victory on a plate. The biggest losers in Class E were Toyota Hilux pair Jaap and Hugo de Bruyn and reigning champions Manfred Schroder and Jack Peckham in the Ford Racing Ranger.
The latter rolled, at a snails pace, and deposited the Ford Ranger in a donga. The du Plessis combination came up with a clean run, and Nissan's domination of the Production Vehicle classes was complete.
There was also a fair amount of drama in the Special Vehicle category. Botswana businessman Makgekgenene and Salley set the fastest time in the prologue, and looked as though they were going to dominate proceedings when they roared into a handy lead.
Then the pair joined the roly-poly club and the du Plessis brothers took full advantage to score their second win of the season in a car bought from Makgekgenene. Harvey and Stone also took advantage of the incident with the overall Special Vehicle and Class A championship leaders still looking for their first win of the season.
Behind the leading Class A trio John Weir-Smith and Geoff Minnitt, in the O'Hagan's/Kopanong Hotel Superteam BMW Jimco were on a mission. A power steering problem saw the pair start 30 minutes after the last car had left, and they then set about blasting their way through the field to finish fourth in the Special Vehicle category.
There were problems, too, for former champion Shameer Variawa and Zeyn Moolla in the Cornbake Jimco. A non-venomous snake, dislodged from a tree branch, landed in Variawa's lap and bit him.
On the Class S front Daus grabbed his fourth win of the season, but he and Rutherford were made to work for their victory. The Nashua Racing Raceco developed front brake problems early on in the race, and the pair had to nurse the car home.
Taylor and de Chalain produced a workmanlike performance to claim the Class B honours, but Nel again came up with a result that keeps the championship pot boiling. The KwaZulu-Natal pair and the East Rand veteran are separated by only a handful of points, and matters over the rest of the season are going to be more than interesting.
The Sun City venue was a hasty replacement for the forests of Mpumalanga where the Toyota Dealer 400 was originally scheduled. The race was put together in just two weeks but a testing route took its toll with only 27 of the original 64 starters making it to the finish.